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Dienstag, 21. Dezember 2010

Himalaya reloaded 2011 - 9th day - Ghorak Shep

9th day: Ghorak Shep (5.140 m) - to Everest B.C. (5.200 m)
6 hours, no lunch
 21.12.2010, 5:15 p.m., in Lobuche (4.910 m),
Himalayan Eco Resorts
 Although the first night – since one week – when I can say I could sleep for a while, I cannot say I enjoyed it. It was something strange, although warm inside my sleeping bag.  For the first time I spend the night with all my thick clothes on me: the flies jacket, the flies pants and the thermo socks!! And of course, the hat on. -15° C inside over night. I had high fever and practically I did not left my sleeping bag for 19 hours (!!!), from 2:30 p.m. to 9 a.m. today in the morning. Except the times I had to go to the frozen toilet. Such a weird primitive lodge, nobody inside, dark rooms, everything made from wooden boards …. So no wonder so cold inside, I suppose that in summer can be very nice and cosy here, but for sure not an accommodation place during the winter!
Last night some thoughts  flew through my tired mind: I am alone, at one of the Ends of this World, sick, have fever, starting to loose blood from my nose, I am tired, outside my sleeping bag reigns a paralyzing cold, the guy is in charge with the lodge doesn’t speak English and he is also not too clever, but very good willing actually, I think he is happy to have a guest in his lodge. So far I could make a dialogue with him, I understood it is not his lodge, he just work here, and on 20th of January to the 15th of February he will take holiday, going down in the far away village of his family, so 3 days walking. The lodge will be closed for that period of time. Living alone here, in these conditions, must be terrible difficult and this is why the tourists should show all the empathy and understanding they have.
Although I tried not to drink in the evening, over the night I had to go to the toilet three times, which is a terrible challenge. I didn’t go to sleep in the room I rented, I stayed over night in the dinning room, the idea of going in that tiny cold room just terrified me. The lodge is made from thin wooden boards, some plastic and tin plates, no isolation.
This morning at 7 no movement inside the lodge. Starting 7:50 I began to say “Hallo, namaste! Good morning!”, otherwise the guy seemed not to appear. Although the evening before I asked him if he make some fire in the morning and he said “yes”, at 8 o’clock nothing was moving there. Normally, when they have guests in their lodges, they wake up after 6 or 7. In  this case, I had no idea what “morning time” is meaning for him. So, he finally appeared after 8, but no sign about doing a fire, so I asked him for this. He filled the small stove with dried yak dung and then, instead to light the fire, he was very concerned and busy to sweep around the stove ….. so I felt stupid looking at him.
For breakfast, I asked for Sherpa Stew, as I’ve got used with this sort of local vegetable soup. I blocked him with my request. He said, it is not possible to cook Sherpa Stew in the morning because all is frozen and Sherpa Stew is actually for the lunch or dinner. I did not comment and I just changed my order. It was senseless to try to understand him or to try him to understand me. I asked for “french toast” (2 slices for 400 NRP), 1 liter of boiled water and an egg drop soup. I’ve got the water and the bread, then …. Nothing. I’ve ate the bread with my own honey and I asked him about the soup. He did not understand my order or he just forgot about the soup. Anyway, he apologized and in 5 minutes I’ve got the poor soup too.
I left finally my sleeping bag, it was almost 9 o’clock and I decided to move on for that day. I did not feel the fever anymore. To combat the cold and the high altitude, you have to eat, drink as much as possible, and keep moving. Otherwise, you die.
I wrote a note for Anna, telling her I go to Ghorak Shep / Everest Base Camp, maybe she arrives earlier and we meet on the trail.
I started my trek day very late, at 10, in a crazy slow step. I’ve got on my goretex pants, 3 thin shirts, the down jacket, the hat and the gloves, of course.
I walked past the Eco Hotel – big hotel, from stone, but I just had the feeling it is much to expensive -, past a small herd of yaks and the trail slightly forwarded on the valley, with generous open horizons in background, in various brown nuances. I was again on trail and I felt again inside of my natural world. I could walk, breathe, think and admire, advancing towards to a new unknown of this big world!
Far away in front of me an entire mountains range in white snow and ice. If I suspected that on my right side, over the dark brown hill, the long Kumbu Glacier was stretching …… My first meeting with it – about one hour later – was an absolutely fascinating feeling which I cannot describe.
After one hour of walking through the Kumbu Valley I followed a steep ascent on scree and boulder, then the trail slipped forwarded for another hour through a rugged desert of cobble (thinking a little to high Retezat Area in the Carpathians). All was very dry and dusty, but the sun was behind me and this is a big advantage. If you walk against the sun, you get problems about the visibility and get burned, until you have a good protection.
And, to a certain point, the revelation of meeting the huge mass of the glacier just exploded inside me!! Wow ….. wow …… woooow!!!! I’ve never seen before such a leak of ice waves, frozen and almost frozen lakes, all combined with debris, cobble, tons of dust, snow, ice, lakes with steep sides formed in different points of the long-long ice and snow snake …… wow is the only sound I could say.
Loud, even if I was alone! In front of this image was a high black rock, about 500 m away from my place, so I left the path and I reached that rock, climbing on it and filming or taking pictures, crushed under amazement and delight. At first I had to remember me to breathe again …. Every time when I feel overwhelming I forgot to breath and this can be dangerous :-)

In the picture above: the dark brown mountain is Kala Pattar ("the black rock") of 5.643 m alt., on which I climb tomorrow and the huge white guy behind, so imposing over the scenery, is Pumo Ri*- 7.161 m alt., bordering the Tibet. Everest and Lhotse are on the right (not on this picture). The landscape is overwhelming indeed, even if the pictures are not able to show it. It is indeed quite funny to see in this picture, how small and modest seems to be  the dark Kala Pattar on such a big contradiction with the white Pumo Ri. 
After a while I remembered to return to the trail and to go further on it, it was already too late. I forwarded having the image of the amazing glacier all the time on my right side, I lose the direction at a certain point, as I reached a rocky small valley full of rocks and snow and ice. I was on a part of living Kumbu Glacier actually and I knew that these kind of areas are permanently moving, so the trails are always changing. I saw a small bridge having no logic, a proof of this permanent phenomenon of moving ground. I have to say that because of being alone in such of place, I did not feel very relaxed, It is just too strange, almost creepy to be in a wild place, somewhere at one end of the world, loosing direction. I walked somehow right and I observed a sort of path climbing steep up. So I left the valley with the blue icy walls among the rocks. Shortly I found again the dusty path I walked on before loosing the direction. 

New up&downs for an hour, then suddenly the last human settlement of Ghorak Shep stand down in the sand desert, in front of my eyes. On the south side of Everest, this is the last chance to get accommodation and meals. On the Tibetan side, also the North side of Everest, the things are different, being built some tea houses even in the base camp.
It was too late for  keep going to the end of the trail and reaching Everest B.C., only rocks and cold shadow and the trail is so unsure, nobody around, so I return ed somewhere on the way,  going back on the safety of day light, to Lobuche and about 15 minutes before the high settlement I followed the sign to the “Pyramid”. Five minutes of almost creepy walk, I just had the feeling somebody is following me. I just wanted to see how is the Pyramid looking at the foot of Lobuche Glacier.
North of Lobuche, tucked into a side valley, “The Italian Pyramid” was built in 1990 by the Italian mountaineer Agostino da Polenza and the geologist Ardito Desio, who led the first ascent of K2 in 1954. Housed inside a striking glass pyramid, the research station was established to measure the exact hight of Everest and K2. Today is it used for scientific research of the mountain conservation, climate change, mountaineering technology and the effects of high altitude of the human body.
As I reached Lobuche again it was almost to the sunset and this is meaning, in those high places, much colder air and early dark. It was almost 4 p.m. No sign from Anna, so she did not come, as we established. For the second time very disappointed about her and I felt something is strange with her.
As I entered Lobuche, the first hotel on the right side is Eco Hotel and the manager from there called after me: “Is your name Anka? O couple is asking about you.” I was pleasant surprised to find out that the British couple asked for me, Claire and Andi and to see them again was very enjoyable, as we were the only tourists there for that evening. I asked how much it costs the accommodation, it was 200 NRP (3 USD). In my lodge “Above the clouds” I paid 50 NRP. I tried to negotiate for 100 NRP, as the price was per room and I was single, so it would be unfair to pay the exactly same amount at the couple did. The manager didn’t want to offer any discount, actually the first one who did  not offer a discount for accommodation, all others up to here were always glad to get guests and they asked for a symbolic amount for the room. The fact is the the profit is coming from the meals and beverage costs, not from the rooms. 
I stayed for a while chatting with Claire and Andi, I did not ordered anything to eat or to drink (“If I do not stay here, I do not spend money here, I go to my lodge.”) Before leaving to eat to my lodge, I went and asked again if they make any discount. “OK, you may pay 150 NRP.” Although I knew the standard was much more superior, I did not want to give up negotiating, so I took a room there for 150 NRP. Food and beverage prices were also higher and I knew I will order enough for their profit. So, I run back to my lodge, I paid the bill and let the guy some bonbons and a tip of 3 dollars (this is not mandatory, but I did all over the places, as empathy gesture), then I moved into my new location, instead to stay alone and lonely in that very simple lodge where I already spent a night in the dinning room. It was a good decision actually. I had less to eat, because of the prices, but I had not regrets. I even ordered my first bier! and the empty dose I carried with me back home, if you can imagine this!! It was 21st of December in the evening and I thought about 21 years ago, as at that time I was on the streets of Bucharest, risking my life for a lot of things I enjoy today, event the right to think free, earn money and travel abroad!!
in the picture, my lunch&dinner for today: vegetables rolls. Tasty.

I hope to have a good sleep, as tomorrow in the morning we leave to Kala Pattar at 8,30. It was an amazing day and the joy of being here, feeling all these is worth to any kind of effort indeed! To be here, is a honor. Good night!
COSTS OF THE DAY: Breakfast 950, Dinner 750, room 150 = 1.850 NRP / 26 USD
see the story in pictures clicking here 
*Pumori (or Pumo Ri) is a mountain in the Himalaya on the Nepal-Tibet border. Pumori lies just eight kilometres west of Mount Everest. Pumori, which means "Unmarried Daughter" in the Sherpa language, was named by George Mallory. Climbers sometimes refer to Pumori as "Everest's Daughter".
An outlier of Pumori is Kala Patthar (5,643m/18,513'), which appears as a big brown bump below the impressive south face of Pumori. Many trekkers going to see Mt. Everest up close will attempt to climb to the top of Kala Patthar. The views from almost anywhere on Kala Patthar of Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse are quite impressive on a clear day.
My advice for such of trekking trips in Himalaya: 
Buy the services of a local travel agency. 
If your backpack is over 12 kg, hire a porter. 
Think about hiring a local guide. 
read here the daily schedule of the entire trail 

My first adventure in Himalaya can be read March 2009


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